Friday, August 23, 2013

New England Makes Remarkable Comeback, Beats Northwest in Extras, 14-13

Little League Baseball Photo: Westport's Chad Knight drives in winning run.
Press Conference
From Little League By Colin Brown
South Williamsport, PA - A 10-run inning, a seven-run comeback, and an extra-inning walk off—this Little League Baseball® World Series instant classic had it all Friday afternoon at Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pa., as Westport (Conn.) Little League defeated Eastlake Little League from Sammamish, Wash., 14-13.

In front of 8,613 fans, Chad Knight stood confidently at home plate and delivered a two-out, two-strike, walk-off base hit to deep left field in the bottom of the seventh inning. Christopher Drbal scored from third base and Knight’s game-winner advanced New England to the United States Championship game.

“Going up to the plate I was a little nervous, but I realized this was just like any other at-bat,” Knight said, who finished two-for-four, scored two runs, and had two RBI. “I just went up there and tried to put the ball in play.”

Knight’s teammates had their share of the drama in the bottom of the seventh as well. Just before Knight stepped up, Max Popken hit a ground ball to the left side of the infield, base runner Ricky Offenberg—on his way to third base—ran into the fielder, and Drbal was tagged out in a rundown as he tried to reach home plate from third.

The excitement of the crowd was palpable at Lamade Stadium. Northwest fans thought that a double play had relieved them from the inning, but after a long discussion, the umpires returned with their call. Offenberg was called out on interference, which immediately rendered the play dead. Drbal returned to third base, Knight came to the plate, and the rest is history.

The madness began in the fifth inning for New England as they posted a seven-hit, seven-run rally. Alex Reiner started the fireworks with a three-run home run—the first ball that Reiner has ever hit out of a ballpark—to cut New England’s deficit to 13-9.

“It was great rounding the bases and touching every base,” Reiner said. “It’s a dream come true to be here and hit a home run.”

Popken followed suit four batters later with a two-run home run, which brought New England within one, 13-12. Knight was up next and he continued the trend with a solo shot to deep left-center field to tie the game.

“We knew we could score,” New England manager Tim Rogers said. “I knew we would battle and that’s all we can ask.”

“In Little League, there’s no safe lead—ever,” Northwest manager Rob Chandler said.

Northwest had built their lead, 12-5, with a ten-hit, ten-run fourth inning. Zack Olson tripled down the left-field line, which scored Jack Matheson and Adam Carper to tie the game, 5-5. Five straight singles resulted in five more runs and a 10-5 Northwest lead. In Olson’s second plate appearance of the inning, he doubled to right field and Carper scored, which pushed the Northwest lead to 12-5.

The game featured the third most combined runs (27) and the third most combined hits (30) in Little League Baseball World Series history.

Despite sixteen hits and Northwest’s largest lead of the World Series, it was not enough to hold off New England’s strong bats and deep lineup. With the win, New England will have their second face-off of the series with West, this time for the United States Championship on Saturday, Aug. 24, at 3:30 p.m on ABC.